Fr. Mike Schmitz at a 2019 Student Leadership Summit held in Phoenix. CNS photo/John Caballero

Bible podcast tops the Apple charts

By  Peter Wilson, Youth Speak News
  • November 10, 2021

The Bible in a Year (BIAY) podcast launched by Catholic priest Fr. Mike Schmitz and biblical scholar Jeff Cavins has emerged as a religious media phenomenon among North American audiences.

Within two days of its release, BIAY shot to the top of the Apple Podcasts’ secular all-categories chart and remained in the number-one spot from Jan. 2-18. The podcast rode the popularity wave all year long, consistently maintaining a top-five position on the Apple charts and frequently topping the charts.

It also reigned as the number-one podcast on Apple Podcasts’ Religion & Spirituality chart from Jan. 2 to June 3, and from Oct. 24 until now.

These impressive metrics go beyond chart placements. With 142 million total downloads, 464,000 average daily downloads and 3.3 billion total minutes listened to date, it has reached an unprecedented number of English-speaking Christians.

The success of the podcast was toasted during a Nov. 3 Zoom conference hosted by media partner Ascension Press.

Lauren Joyce, the organization’s public relations and external communications specialist, illustrated the scale of this achievement by claiming BIAY’s American audience alone could fill the University of Michigan’s football stadium four times over.

While these stats are a delightful development, Schmitz and Cavins are more touched by the personal reactions to the podcast.

“We’re humbled by testimonials from people of all walks of life who’ve started to apply a biblical worldview to their lives — gaining clarity on God’s will, overcoming addictions, returning to the sacraments or are converting to Catholicism, renewing marriages and relationships — and many more incredible stories,” said Schmitz, who also serves as the pastor and director of youth and young adult ministries in the Diocese of Duluth, Minn.

Cavins, the author of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible that inspired the podcast, said “to see people studying the Bible has been an amazing fulfilment of a lifelong dream for me.”

He’s even more delighted by what readers are deciding to do after they read the Bible. “The key is to ask, what are we going to do next? We listened to (the Bible), we went through the stories, but what are you gonna do with it?” asks Cavin. “Faith without works is dead. I think that we’re set up now to have a huge impact on society. If we do what Jesus said to do and act as disciples in the modern world, we can have an impact.”

As of  Nov. 5, 309 of 365 episodes have been recorded. Each recording features Schmitz reading selected passages of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible while also offering commentary, reflections and prayer. Cavins joins each episode for a scholarly discussion.

While the initial podcast is slated to wrap up in December, Ascension Press has plans for BIAY beyond 2021.

On Jan. 1, BIAY will officially become a bilingual podcast with the release of La Biblia en un año podcast, a Spanish-language version of the Schmitz’s podcast with original commentary and a new, native-Spanish speaking host.

Also occurring will be a BIAY virtual retreat, which will run from Feb. 18-20 and feature four live talks from Schmitz and Cavins, a Q&A session and live adoration led by Schmitz.

Schmitz and Cavins are not quite finished with their podcast collaborations. In response to popular demand by BIAY listeners, Ascension Press said it is “seriously considering” a “Catechism In A Year” podcast hosted by the duo for a 2023 release.

(Wilson, 20, is studying for his Bachelor of Catholic Studies at Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)

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